Mullins Farm: Site 29
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Mullins Family History
Vincent Mullins was born around 1903 and his wife Hertha was born in 1917. They were married in 1940, but had no children. Prior to living on the farm at site 29 off Wilson Street, Vincent went to the University of Wisconsin and became a pharmacist while Hertha was a camera girl for a photo concessions business at the Black Hawk Restaurant in Chicago.
They bought the property off Wilson Road from Mr. Bergle, a Chevrolet dealer in Berwyn at the time. The house rested on 80 acres of land called “Meywell Acres,” named after the Meyers and Wellmans who had originally built the house. Besides about 40 acres of woods and a big lake on the property, there was another 40 acres of land where the houses, stables, and barns stood and the rest was planted with various crops such as soy beans and corn, which were tended to by their neighbor, Jim Theis, from site 32.
The Mullins farm had chickens, horses, and steer. Hertha sold her chickens’ eggs at the Black Hawk Restaurant for ninety cents a dozen, a good price at that time. The Black Hawk was the first Chicago restaurant with live bands performing and broadcasting on the radio.
Although Vincent was a pharmacist, he always had a love for horses. Consequently, Vincent got into the business of raising thoroughbred racehorses. He managed all the horse breeding on the farm, broke the horses on the farm, and then sent them to the Arlington racetrack for training. The Mullins’ also hired exercise boys and jockeys for their horses at the track. They had a stallion and ended up raising about thirteen yearlings at the farm. The horses eventually raced at tracks like Keeneland (Lexington, Kentucky) and Oaklawn (Hot Springs, Arkansas). Hertha acted as midwife for the thoroughbreds and assisted delivery of the foals herself. Since Vincent was the breeder he would become nervous during the births because he had invested so much in the horses. They were quite successful and Vincent made a name for himself, later becoming an executive of the Illinois’ Breeders Association. They tried to continue their thoroughbred breeding business at their next house, on Deerpath Road in Batavia, but the new location was not suitable so Vincent and Hertha gave up their passion. In 1962, Hertha became the first woman real estate broker in Batavia and made that her career for the next 30 years. After they sold the farm to the state of Illinois in 1968, Fermilab’s founding director, Robert R. Wilson, lived at site 29 with his wife, Jane, from 1969 to 1978. The house came to be called “the Director’s home” and has been the residence of subsequent Fermilab directors Peoples, Witherell and Oddone.